Tracking Acrobat Revisions without miles of cursor moving

For anyone using an Acrobat markup workflow to take in client alterations, the following scenario may be familiar: Take in one client alteration, tick that it is done, scroll down to the next one, and take in that alteration… or perhaps tick that an alteration is done but not scroll down until all of the alterations that are visible have been done and then scroll down to the next set of untouched alterations.

trackalts1ccombined

For me, this falls into a category of “mildly annoying” when ticking off an alteration, then scrolling a fraction forward to put the next one to the top of the comments list. This escalates to “really annoying” when moving the cursor further to the bottom right of the screen to scroll down further, as instead of scrolling further down, the cursor will:

  • Invoke my Dock to pop up on my mac;
  • Invoke a “hot corner” action on my mac that is set to the bottom right of the screen;
  • Inadvertently open an email alert that pops up via Microsoft Outlook (alerts pop up on the bottom right of the screen).

I could always use the vertical slider to scroll only a fraction downwards, but as I near the end of the corrections, the vertical slider will still be closer to the bottom right hand of the screen.

trackalts1combined

I am unsure whether the comments list can be scrolled through vertically using the click-wheel on a mouse because I am using a stylus, but can say that the pan/scroll button on my stylus will not move vertically through the comments list.

The solution was inspired by an article from Matt Mayerchak and Kelly Vaughn that appeared in Issue 68 of InDesign Magazine titled “PDF Markup Demystified”. It is definitely worth a read if considering Acrobat markups as a workflow, or ways of improving an Acrobat workflow that may already be in use.

The first part of the solution was to do something that I did not think was possible in Adobe Acrobat – undock the comment list.

trackalts2

Doing this allows the list of comments list to appear as a panel that can start and finish at a custom size, and doesn’t limit the list to the bottom right of the screen. In this example, I have moved the comments closer to the left hand side of the artwork.

trackalts3b

The second part of the solution is eluded to in the article but not mentioned directly, and that is the ability to show only comments that are unchecked.

trackalts4 and 5b

It is worth noting that these checked/unchecked options are only available once one comment has been set from unchecked to checked.

trackalts5combined

Once this is done, the moment an alteration marked as checked, the alteration disappears and is replaced by the next unchecked alteration.

trackalts6combined

As a result of undocking the comment list and only showing unchecked alterations, it is now possible to see the current alterations being worked on without having so much cursor “travel time”. It might not seem like much, but for anyone using this workflow who may see 200-400 edits per PDF, that’s a lot of time that can be saved.

See it at the final size – view size and Acrobat

A previous post has discussed issues with PDF proofing for issues relating to quality.

If checking content only, PDF proofs can be an efficient way of checking content, given that hard copy proofs do not have to be created or delivered to the client. If the client also has the latest version of Acrobat Reader, PDF proofing also allows alterations or markups to be made on the PDF proof.

One feature I would like to be able to control in InDesign when preparing the PDF is how the PDF should appear on the client’s screen. Adding bookmarks and other interactive elements to a PDF is fine, but ultimately for the creation of content that is for other purposes rather than a print-proof, these features are not necessary.

It is possible to control the security settings of the PDF:

security

But what cannot be controlled from InDesign is the size and page presentation of the PDF. When viewing a PDF in Adobe Acrobat, the file will appear at the size and presentation options that are in the client’s defaults (from the Preferences/General menu).

pdfpreferences

There are occasions where checking a PDF at the correct size and presentation are important, such as:

  • Seeing pages that feature cross-overs in a readers spread;
  • Seeing the artwork at the finished size (e.g. can reveal if type sizes are too big or small)

pizzafullsize

pizzasmall

In the example above, a pizza recipe is prepared on a business card. Using the default view to check the PDF, all looks good, but when viewed to the true output (final size when printed) size, it looks like a recipe card for ants!

These view settings cannot be controlled by InDesign, but can be controlled in Acrobat Professional. While a PDF is open, the options can be found under the File/Properties menu.

pdfinitialview

These initial view settings can be changed (as well as whether or not to display other features such as bookmarks etc), the file saved and closed. Once the file is opened again, the PDF will view to the settings that were changed in the preferences. That is fine if changing one file, but if changing dozens at once, or wishing to change the view permanently, this is not an ideal solution.

Solution: The Action Wizard

Instead, the view settings can be changed using the Action Wizard. If unsure where the action wizard is, open any PDF to show the side tabs, and then click on the Tools tab, then check the Action Wizard option.

findaction

To create a new action, click the Create New Action button. Once clicked, a new dialog box will appear. Since the initial view needs to be changed, go to the Document Processing tab and select the Set Open Options button.

setopenoptions

The following example would save a file so that it displayed as readers spreads to fit the screen.

makeaction1

The following example would save a file so that it displayed at 1:1 size.

makeaction2

Just like the File/Properties menu, there are more features that can be changed, such as what side tabs to open, whether or not menus or icons should appear.

There is also the ability to change many files other than an open file, as well as what to do with the resulting files. This is done by changing the “Start with” or “Save to” dropdown fields.

whattodowithaction

When all the relevant settings are made, click Save. A dialog box will prompt for a name and description of the action so it can be found later.

saveaction

The action is now added to the list of available actions, with the last action used at the top of the list.

Voila! A solution now exists to change the views without lots of navigation through dialog boxes.

 

Never, ever, EVER tick this checkbox when making a PDF!

A rather obscure and never before used checkbox in the export PDF dialog box has caused great concern for one particular reader, and that was the ability to create a PDF that has visible guides and grids.

To illustrate what happens, the following example will be used. Take the front of this flyer for a band, and note the gridlines in InDesign.

notthebutton1

The flyer is ready to be sent to the client so a PDF needs to be made. For the purpose of this demonstration, the [High Quality Print] setting that is one of the default presets for Adobe InDesign will be used, with one exception: The checkbox at the bottom “Visible Guides and Grids”

notthebutton2

The PDF is now created but unlike other PDFs, the guides and grids are not only visible, but will end up on the final print as well! The illustration shows that the guidelines can be selected with third party tools such as Enfocus Pitstop Professional.

notthebutton3

In this reader’s case, the checkbox was clicked mistakenly and fortunately for them, the eagle-eyed prepress staff that were about to print the artwork had noticed the lines and fixed the situation accordingly. However, the issue had highlighted several important points:

There are many features of InDesign that are somewhat obscure and would be used rarely, but is there really anyone out there that would ever feel the need to show their clients the grids and columns on a PDF, yet alone output them to a print-ready PDF?

Only instance that comes to mind would be a client that insists items on a proof are not lining up. Using this feature (with the appropriate gridline in the file) would create a PDF that would show the client that in fact the items do line up as intended… but is this a situation that arises often enough to warrant such a button in the export options?

Reader thoughts are definitely welcome on this topic!

Data Merge: Multiple Record Madness

There have been plenty of posts on the Adobe InDesign Forum lately concerning issues that users are having with data merge, particularly Multiple Record Data Merge (MRDM) projects. These projects could be “stepping up” artwork onto a larger sheet for trimming (e.g. imposing many business cards onto one sheet) or preparing catalogues for example.

Before rushing into an FAQ of issues concerning MRDM, here is a step-by-step of preparing a MRDM to ensure the minimum of fuss:

1) In a new document, go to the Master page and create the static items that are to appear on every page.

mrm01

2) Create a new master page BASED ON the master page created in step 2 and in this page, add the items that will be variable, but prepare the set up as if it were for one record only.

(for those familiar with Data Merge, the variable can indeed be on a regular page. The difference is that MRDMs created with variable items on a regular page will not allow the source data to be linked)

mrm02a

mrm02b

3) From the Data Merge palette, choose “Select Data Source” and select the text file that will be used for the merge.

4) Populate the variable placeholders using the fields from the Data Merge Palette, being sure to that the placeholders of the text are visible in their own frames. Once satisfied with its appearance, select “Create Merged Document”

mrm04

5) A new dialog box appears. In the tab “Records”, make sure that the Records per Document Page dropdown says Multiple Records. Then from the tab “Multiple Record Layout”, set the appropriate margins of the artwork. If using the preview, note that the position of the first record may have moved – this is normal. Change the margins to the margins that were in the static layer, and layout the records as appropriate. Click OK once ready to proceed

mrm05a

mrm05b

6) A progress dialog will appear. After a moment the document will be created either with or without an overset text warning.

mrm06a

mrm06b

There are several things that should be noted:

  • The margins in the InDesign file are irrelevant for where the variable data starts – this is determined by the Data Merge Panel;
  • That during the construction of the file, it is only possible to view the data 1-up. To preview multiple records, this can only be done from the  Create Merged Document from the Data Merge panel.

Common complaints when preparing a Multiple Record Data Merges:

Each page has the same record repeated, so page 1 has record 1 many times, page 2 has record 2 many times, etc.

Likely that many variable placeholders were created and populated thereby filling the page, instead of one series of placeholders for one record only. MRDM works by creating one record and then using the MRDM panel to allow the next records to be inserted based upon details here (e.g. distance between the records, direction of flow of the records)

MRDM records aren’t merging where I want them to merge (e.g. off by half a millimetre or more, or off by miles)

Data merge uses the margins within the MRDM dialog box, NOT the margins in the active document. There is an additional glitch that offsets the starting position by fractions of a millimetre. This may seem insignificant but there is no reason that the software should not place the text to precise measurements.

mrm07a

mrm07b

Data merge has a further glitch if the document was initially created at one size but was then resized (regardless of orientation or size). When merging, the starting offset appears to be where the original size page margins would have been. The following example shows the same file but just made landscape.

mrm08a

mrm08b

This glitch persists despite further resizing, adjusting of margins, or saving as IDML and reopening. The only solution is to cut and paste from the defective document into a brand new document.

When MRDM merges to PDF, the first record does not appear, and instead of the records displaying one after the other, only the first record placeholders appear and is repeated through the document.

mrm09a

This only occurs when exporting directly to PDF. In this instance, the variable data portion has to be on a regular page, and any items that are to remain static need to be on the master page.

mrm09b

mrm09c

The MRDM preview is correct, but the resulting InDesign file has only one record per page. Once the view is changed to see the entire pasteboard, it is clear that the other records are on the pasteboard.

mrm10a

mrm10b

Likely because the variable and static data is on the same master page. Instead, the variable data portion has to be on a regular page, and any items that are to remain static need to be on the master page. If linking to the text is essential, the workaround is to put the background on a master, and then make a second master that is BASED ON that background and put the variable data on that layer. Refer to part 2 of the tutorial at the start of this post for more information.

Other commonly asked merging questions:

Upon selecting data to import, a dialog box says “The data source has one or more empty field names. Please fix the file or select another file”.

mrm13

The header row has fields that don’t have names. Can happen if the field names have no headers – the header row has to have names in it. Can also happen if an excel file is saved as a txt/csv file but it saves more columns than required. These excess columns need to be deleted in excel before attempting to import the data again.

The text has picked up the formatting of the line underneath.

This has to do with the “Remove Blank Lines For Empty Fields” options in the Content Placement Options portion of the Data Merge palette. This issue has been discussed elsewhere on Colecandoo.

The records are all in their own frames, instead of one long flowing frame like this:

mrm11

Data Merge works in this fashion, it doesn’t have a “next record” feature that Microsoft Word has in its “Mail Merge” feature. There is a workaround in the form of a script created by Loic Aigon that will do this; or by merging to a new file and then using a script such as Ajar production’s merge textframes that will thread the text so it run into one text frame, but if the data is likely to change then this procedure will have to run all over again. XML workflow is better for this kind of project.

How do I prepare a multiple record merge where records specific to one field are on the same sheet?

mrm12

This can’t be done from InDesign “Off of the shelf”. Data Merge, whether single or multiple records, can only handle one to one database relationships. It can’t merge items such as itemised invoicing for a client database where the database contains varying record lengths for each client. This is an example of “one to many” database relationship. InDesign can only handle “one to one” database relationships.

How to I preserve carriage returns from my Excel database into Data Merge?

Can’t be done. Data Merge only works with txt or csv files, so ultimately the Excel file has to be saved as one of these formats. A return (whether soft or hard return) in the txt/csv file indicates the end of the record and the start of the next, whether intentional or not. One trick is to substitute the returns with a character that is unlikely to use in normal type (e.g. the “pipe” symbol = | ) and once merged into the file, use find/change to replace the | with a carriage return.

The drawback is that this method cannot be used if merging directly to a PDF as the intermediate step of removing the pipe symbols cannot be done. Another drawback is if the data file for the merge is replaced, the merge will have to be done again. XML is a better choice for this task as carriage returns, non-breaking spaces and other special characters can be preserved.

How do I remove unintentional line breaks (whether soft or hard returns) from my Excel database before using Data Merge?

Dozens of answers exist on the many Microsoft Excel forums that may/may not work within the Windows OS, but on the Mac OS there is no reliable answer that works within Excel itself. Anyone who can answer to this question should feel free to post it in the comments. Best answer so far was again from Loic Aigon’s Blog.

My data is not importing properly (e.g. Records are starting where they are not supposed to, characters are corrupting, etc)

Could be a variety of reasons depending on how the data was prepared, how the fields are separated (whether comma or tab). The data should be checked by finding the corrupted record in InDesign, then comparing the data file in a text editor such as UltraEdit or TextWrangler to see what is happening.

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